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Manfred: Expanded playoffs likely to remain beyond 2020

Mary DeCicco / Major League Baseball / Getty

Major League Baseball's new playoff format appears to be the sport's new normal.

While appearing on a virtual panel organized by Hofstra University's business school on Monday, commissioner Rob Manfred said the league's expanded postseason format featuring 16 teams would likely return in 2021 and beyond, according to Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post.

"I think there's a lot to commend it," Manfred said of the format, "and it is one of those changes I hope will become a permanent part of our landscape."

The commissioner added that "an overwhelming majority" of owners favored the expanded playoffs before the pandemic shortened this season to 60 games and necessitated the change.

MLB has always featured the smallest playoff pool of the major sports, primarily due to its longer regular-season schedule. In 1995, baseball first expanded the postseason to feature four teams in each league; a second wild-card team was added in 2012.

This year's expanded playoffs will include the three division winners holding the top seeds in each league, followed by the three second-place teams as Nos. 4 through 6, and the next two best teams as wild-card entries. The first round will be a best-of-three at the higher seed's ballpark; once teams enter a bubble, the Division Series will proceed as usual.

The new format has been met with some resistance. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, whose team is locked in a heated battle with the San Diego Padres for the NL West title, believes it will remove any incentive for teams to win their division.

"As far as the benefit, it's nonexistent," Roberts said Tuesday, according to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times.

Expanded playoffs may not be the only change in MLB that sticks around beyond 2020. Manfred stopped short of confirming that the universal designated hitter and the runner-on-second extra-inning rule will return in 2021, but he does believe the changes have been successful.

"One of the few good things about (the pandemic) is it has provided an opportunity to try some different things in the game on a one-year basis that I think has been a positive overall," Manfred said, according to Sheinin.

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